SpaceX Dragon capsule completes ISS docking in major breakthrough for NASA space programme

The Falcon9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule blasted off from Cape Canaveral yesterday morning and completed its journey to the ISS about 11am UK time today. Astronauts onboard the space station are completing checks ahead of opening the capsule’s hatch and welcoming its only passenger, dummy Ripley. Dragon will spend five days attached to the space station as astronauts continue tests on the capsule before it hurtles back to Earth.

Mission control scientists cheered loudly this morning as the spacecraft’s computers automatically docked the module without human assistance.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “This is critically important.

“We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.”

 

Dragon blasted off from NASA’s Florida spaceport in the middle of Saturday night, watched by thousands of fascinated onlookers, and reached space minutes later.

The spacecraft completed a series of rocket thrusts nudging it into an orbit alignment with the ISS before docking 27 hours later.

After completing docking checks, astronauts from the ISS entered the Dragon capsule to welcome its passenger, dummy Ripley, onboard the space station.

America has relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for eight years after NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.

US and European astronauts, including Britain’s Tim Peake, have begun their journey into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan.

But NASA hopes private firm SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, holds the key to cost-effectively transporting their astronauts to the ISS in future meaning today’s docking represents the next major step in America’s space programme.

If the programme continues to go to plan, SpaceX and NASA plan to send humans back into space from the US later this year.

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